Are Bears buying into Marc Trestman at training camp?
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com July 25, 2013 8:58PM
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Updated: August 27, 2013 6:39AM
There’s no doubt it’s a new day in Bearsville.
The question is: Is it a better day?
Quarterback Jay Cutler hinted at the potential turbulence of change when he reported to training camp Wednesday in Bourbonnais and said of new coach Marc Trestman’s philosophy and regime, ‘‘Guys are buying in.’’
But then he said this: ‘‘Not everybody’s bought in, but that’s OK. We still have a lot of time. Hopefully by the time the first game rolls around, we’ve got everyone on the same page.’’
That would be soon.
And that would be Page 1 of the book A Rookie Coach’s Journey Into the Night. It would come swiftly after the burning of all remaining copies of the taboo tome The Lovie Smith Story: My Players Loved Me, Even If Bears Fans Thought I Was Embalmed.
You see, Trestman, who has never been an NFL head coach, is treading in foreign, even treacherous, waters as he replaces the quiet, secretive Smith, who was, without doubt, a ‘‘players’ coach.’’
That is, he never publicly made players fall guys for team failures (even when deserved), he always kept players’ issues and complaints away from the media and he defended players even when they had done some of the dumbest, most childish things ever — such as scream derisively at writers at the end of media sessions or get in fights with each other at FBI firing ranges.
Indeed, for Lovie, a miscreant player was the equivalent of a wayward son who just needed to be sent to his room for a while and hugged.
And so there are holdover Lovie Lovers on this team. There are many veterans who seemed genuinely upset when Smith was let go last winter after posting a 10-6 record.
One of the most vocal of Smith’s supporters then was middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Of course, he’s gone, having shown more than a spoon’s worth of delusion for not accepting a one-year, $2 million contract from general manager Phil Emery, who probably didn’t want Urlacher back at any price.
But Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman certainly is back, as are Lance Briggs, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and others.
It was just last winter that Tillman said, ‘‘I don’t want to play for another coach. . . . Great guy, great leader.’’
Tillman went on, saying that if the Bears brought in a new coach, ‘‘They got to rebuild the team. Naw, you don’t want to do that.’’
You don’t, do you. But it’s happening now, and it’s happening with a coach who is intense, cerebral and about as lovable as a grad-school quantum physics professor. Trestman is, in many ways, the anti-Lovie. Thus does the coaching pendulum always seem to swing. Soft guy, hard guy. Quiet guy, loud guy. Warm guy, cold guy. Feel guy, book guy.
Different is all that matters in these coaching carousels. It’s why wild man Billy Martin came back about 50 times as a manager of the Yankees. It’s why ‘‘collegiate’’ types always seem to follow ‘‘professional’’ types.
And Trestman, who’s so skinny, wired and fit that he even runs along with tailbacks on practice carries, is collegiate to the hilt, in that he seems to micromanage the game down to the nub. Some coaches let pros do their own thing. That’s a players’ coach. Trestman is not that.
Defensive end Corey Wootton said he thought, for the most part, veteran players are getting used to Trestman’s style.
‘‘It’s just new,’’ he said, ‘‘and I think it’s different from what we had with Lovie. When you see the practices, it’s just up-tempo, real quick, fast-paced.”
Other players have said it’s like a trip back to their college days of yore. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if your team loses while doing it, you can get edgy and cranky real fast.
It’s hard to say what coaches are supposed to be these days. Elite Patriots coach Bill Belichick had blabbered on about the way the Pats so carefully checked their recruits for character flaws, how — as owner Robert Kraft said — the Patriots were one ‘‘big family.’’
And then Aaron Hernandez is welcomed into the house. Hey, if a dude can catch, throw or run with the ball or splatter an opponent and change a game, he’s gonna play in the NFL.
That’s why godlike Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shrugged Wednesday and said at a news conference, ‘‘Obviously there are some things that maybe we erred on.’’
Not only have 41 of Meyer’s players on his 2008 national-championship Florida team been arrested during or after college, he also has had to suspend some OSU players recently. Plus, he coached the jackpot itself, the imprisoned Hernandez.
The Bears don’t have those problems, thank God.
Just getting on the same page is enough for them.